Rodney Reed Requests 30-Day Reprieve from Texas Governor Greg Abbott

A mountain of evidence shows Reed’s innocence; new sworn testimony further implicates victim’s fiancé in the murder

Sandra Reed, the mother of death row inmate Rodney Reed, shows her continued support of her son by carrying this placard around the parking lot during a break in a hearing in Bastrop County District Court. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

(Bastrop, TX – October 21, 2019) Today, Rodney Reed, who is set to be executed on November 20, 2019, for a crime he did not commit, called upon Texas Governor Greg Abbott to exercise his authority to grant a 30-day reprieve to spare Reed’s life. The letter to Gov. Abbott, sent by Reed’s attorneys with the Innocence Project, also asks the governor to order the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to investigate whether a commutation of Reed’s death sentence should be granted in light of the mounting evidence pointing to his innocence. Reed has been on death row for over 21 years. 

Related: 10 Facts You Need to Know About Rodney Reed

In the decades since Rodney Reed’s conviction and death sentence for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, ample evidence has not only contradicted every aspect of the state’s case against him, but also strongly implicated Stites’ then-fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, who was both a local police officer and a suspect in the murder at the time.

Mr. Reed did not sexually assault or murder Stacey Stites that night in 1996.

“It is clear to anyone who looks at the evidence in this case that, quite simply, Mr. Reed did not sexually assault or murder Stacey Stites that night in 1996,” says Bryce Benjet, a senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project. “Medical and scientific evidence confirm this and multiple new and credible witnesses not only confirm Reed’s intimate relationship with Stites, but also implicate Fennell in her murder. If the great state of Texas puts Mr. Reed to death, it will be a miscarriage of justice that will destroy even more innocent lives in this case and do irreparable damage to public confidence in the accuracy and fairness of the criminal justice system in Texas.”

In the past few weeks, a substantial amount of new information demonstrating Reed’s innocence has come to light. Three new witnesses, who knew Fennell at the time of Stites’ murder, have come forward with information corroborating the already substantial evidence of Reed’s innocence and establishing a violation of due process. In order to further investigate this newly discovered evidence, the withdrawal of the impending execution date is required under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

Act: Stop the execution of Rodney Reed

Most recently, an affidavit providing sworn testimony from former Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Charles Wayne Fletcher, a colleague and friend of Fennell at the time of Stites’ murder, establishes motives of both racial animus and revenge for Fennell against Stites. Fennell, who was an early suspect in the Stites’ rape and murder, later pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sex charges after he was indicted for abducting and raping a different woman who he encountered while on-duty as a Georgetown police officer.  

“I was so disturbed by his behavior that it caused me to question whether he was involved in Stacey’s death.”

In the new affidavit, Fletcher describes the deteriorating relationship between Fennell and Stites in March 1996 and recalls that Fennell made a disturbing and bigoted statement that Stites was having an affair: “… I remember clearly that Jimmy said that he believed Stacey was ‘f***ing a n*****’.” It also notes Fennell’s “odd, emotionless behavior” at Stites’ funeral and burial services. “I was so disturbed by his behavior that it caused me to question whether he was involved in Stacey’s death,” Fletcher’s affidavit states. “I also chose to have no further interaction or communication with him.”

Fletcher’s statement comes on the heels of two other new affidavits implicating Fennell in the murder: one from an insurance salesperson who stated that Fennell threatened to kill Stites while applying for life insurance, and the other from Jim Clampit, a deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder, to whom Fennell made an alarming and inculpatory statement at Stites’ funeral regarding Stites’ body. This new evidence could not have been discovered or presented in any of Reed’s prior pleadings and supports his actual innocence.

“After watching the movie I opened up my computer & opened up my email about a case I had recently been investigating, @FreeRodneyReed. I have been hearing about him and his story for the last week. On Nov. 20, Texas will execute Rodney Reed. I believe he is innocent.”
Kim Kardashian West✔@KimKardashian


Previously, Stites’ cousin has affirmed that Reed and Stites were romantically involved, while Fennell’s best friend at the time, Bastrop Sheriff’s officer, Curtis Davis, has revealed that Fennell gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder.

Forensic experts who implicated Reed at trial have recanted their opinions, and leading forensic pathologists have since concluded that the state’s theory of Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible. Despite overwhelming evidence of Reed’s innocence, Texas courts have consistently refused to consider the forensic evidence proving Reed did not commit the crime and denied access to DNA testing that can confirm Fennell’s guilt.  

Especially in light of the new evidence that has continued to emerge, a reprieve will afford the Board of Pardons and Paroles the time it needs to fully investigate this voluminous and compelling case and provide recommendations to the governor that are the product of a thorough and orderly process.

Reed’s call for justice, commutation and exoneration has recently been taken up by high-profile individuals, including Dr. Phil McGraw, Kim Kardashian West and Mark Cuban. This month, Dr. Phil featured Reed’s case on his television show. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist who has examined Stites’ autopsy report, insisted, “without hesitation, that this is one of the clearest, unequivocal cases of gross misjudgment – of a travesty of justice – that I’ve ever seen.”

“The state of Texas needs to make sure they are getting this right @GovAbbott
Mark Cuban✔@mcuban

Reed is represented by Innocent Project Senior Staff Attorney Bryce Benjet and Andrew MacRae of Levatino Pace PLLC. The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

“With execution just weeks away, Dr. Phil stepped inside the Livingston, Texas prison to interview Reed. #DrPhil
Dr. Phil✔@DrPhil

Authored by the Innocence Project

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Rodney supporters rally at the Texas Capitol this Saturday!

October 18, 2019
Updated October 22, 2019 with photos

Supporters of death row inmate Rodney Reed plan to rally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday in hopes of stopping Reed’s scheduled execution next month.

They are expected to gather at the south steps of the Capitol at 2 p.m. for the 20th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty event, where Reed’s mother and brother — Sandra Reed and Rodrick Reed — plan to speak about their fight to prove Reed’s innocence in the 1996 strangulation of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County.

Scott Cobb, president of the Texas Moratorium Network, an anti-death penalty nonprofit, said rally organizers expect to see an increase in attendees after Reed’s case received national attention this month on the “Dr. Phil” talk show. About 50 marchers have attended the event in recent years, according to Cobb.

“We hope that when people hear from Sandra and Rodrick that it will continue to educate people about the risk that an innocent person is on death row,” Cobb said. “Texas has continued to lead the country in capital punishment. It’s a really compelling issue, especially for families like Rodney Reed’s.”

Reed, along with his family, has maintained his innocence in Stites’ death. Police say Reed assaulted, raped and strangled Stites to death while Reed, however, says he and Stites had a consensual affair.

Two new witnesses were brought forward by Reed’s attorneys this month in a final attempt to halt the execution set for Nov. 20. Both witnesses claim to have known Stites’ fiancé Jimmy Fennell,who was a suspect until investigators found Reed’s DNA in her body.

A motion filed this month in Bastrop County District Court by Reed’s attorneys says the witness accounts blame Fennell.

Reed’s attorney’s are now asking the court to withdraw the execution date.

By Heather Osbourne

Originally printed in the Austin American Statesman: https://www.statesman.com/news/20191018/death-row-inmate-rodney-reed-supporters-to-rally-at-capitol-on-saturday?

Sandra Reed speaks at the 20th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. Photo by Texas Moratorium Network
Rodrick Reed out the Governor’s Mansion. Photo by Texas Moratorium Network
Print copy of coverage in the Austin American Statesman. Protesters march down Congress Ave. in the 20th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. Photo by Texas Moratorium Network

“Governor Abbott, delay this execution”

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott, A man’s life now lies in your hands. Spare him.

On Nov. 20, Rodney Reed is to be executed by the state of Texas for a crime we can no longer be confident he committed. Twenty one years ago, he was convicted in the 1996 rape and murder of 19-year old Giddings resident Stacey Stites. Ever since, evidence has mounted that Reed neither raped nor killed her. Now, his defense claims it has new witnesses pointing to the man who did.

Photo by Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman

Reed, 51, is scheduled to die. Of this, there is no doubt. Nor of this: Stites was strangled and killed on April 23, 1996, her body found on a country road in neighboring Bastrop County. Reed became a suspect a year later when another woman accused him of sexual assault; the prosecution showed semen found on both women belonged to Reed.

Reed maintained that was because he and Stites, engaged to Giddings police officer Jimmy Fennell, Jr., had been having an affair, but the jury convicted him anyway.

Over time, facts have emerged that were never part of Reed’s trial and as a result, the prosecution’s case has fallen apart.

The medical examiner who claimed that Reed raped Stites has recanted. DNA evidence that pointed to Stites’ fiance was never shared with Reed’s defense. Other physical evidence, including the murder weapon — her belt — was never subjected to genetic testing. Now, Reed’s defense at the Innocence Project claims it has new evidence, including two signed affadavits from individuals who knew Fennell. One says he threatened to kill Stites if he ever caught her with another man, and another says he heard Fennell tell her corpse at the viewing that she had deserved to die.

On Oct. 4, lawyers for the Innocence Project filed a motion in state court to have the execution date withdrawn, citing the new evidence that they say was not available at trial.

All along, the state courts have denied Reed’s one repeated request: that evidence collected where Stites’ body was found be genetically tested. Just two years ago, Fennell’s old boss, Giddings’ former chief of police, told CNN that Fennell had confessed to being out later than he’d said at trial and that he’d been drinking the night before his fiance’s body was discovered, too.

The Criminal Court of Appeals has twice rejected Reed’s appeal, saying the untested evidence probably would not have acquitted Reed nor would the testimony of Fennell’s old boss have been enough to convict Fennell, who has never been charged in connection to Stites’ death. Fennell just finished 10 years in prison for raping a woman in his custody.

Of course, Fennell’s guilt is not the urgent question right now. It’s Reed’s life that hangs in the balance.

His guilt is not remotely beyond a reasonable doubt. A man should not die as long as a believable question of innocence hangs over him.

Which brings us to you, governor.

The case of Rodney Reed is not a case against the death penalty, which still has the support of many in this law-and-order state. It is a case against a potentially wrongful execution.

Your predecessor, Rick Perry, stood by during the frequent executions of his tenure. On Perry’s watch, 279 inmates were put to death — nearly half of the state’s total since Texas resumed executions in 1982. While on your watch, Governor Abbott, 46 people have been executed, you have also already done something Perry rarely did: You’ve exercised discretion to stop an execution.

Minutes before Thomas Whitaker was set to die, at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2018, you granted him clemency. He will spend life in prison for the murder of his mother and brother in Fort Bend County over an inheritance. There was no question of Whitaker’s guilt, just whether it was fair to put him to death when the triggerman got a lighter sentence.

How much more compelling, then, is Reed’s case: Whitaker, who is white, was unquestionably guilty; Reed, who is black, may well be innocent. Study after study, including work by University of Michigan researchers, has found that black and Latino convicts are far more likely to wind up on death row, wrongfully, than white convicts.

Now the case rests beforethe Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and it may soon send you a recommendation in Reed’s case. But you can signal your own preference now. You aren’t bound by arcane rules of the appellate courts. Both you and the board have the documented flaws in the case. You have the Bastrop County prosecutor steadfastly refusing DNA testing on an old murder. You have the fact that Reed has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court. And even if the board doesn’t recommend you commute his sentence, you have the authority to spare his life for 30 days as he pursues his remedy at the Supreme Court.

You should use that authority and give the courts time to fully evaluate the new evidence.

As you mull your options, remember our history: Texas has a tarnished record of convicting and executing the wrong people. In 1863, San Patricio County hanged Chipita Rodriquez for a murder she did not commit, as made clear 120 years later when the state legislature absolved her. In 2000, Claude Jones was put to death because a single strand of his hair was found at a liquor store that had been the scene of a robbery-turned-murder. A decade later, researchers tested that hair and found it very likely came from someone else.

There are many recent cases of wrongful convictions leading to death row in Texas. Since 1987, 13 death row prisoners in Texas have been exonerated. Most were not white, according to data kept by the Innocence Project. False accusations and official misconduct have been at the root of most exonerations in the United States. Right now, though, Rodney Reed is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 in Huntsville.

There is so much wrong with his case there is hardly anything right with it. Do not execute this man, governor. Spare Rodney Reed’s life.

Richard Parker, author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America,” is a contributing columnist for the Houston Chronicle.

10 Facts You Need to Know About Rodney Reed, Who is Scheduled for Execution on November 20

Rodney Reed, who maintains his innocence, has been on death row for the past 21 years for the murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. Since his trial, there is substantial evidence that exonerates Reed and implicates Stites’ fiancé Jimmy Fennell, a local police officer. Reed is scheduled for execution on November 20, 2019, despite an enormous amount of evidence that supports his innocence.

 Watch: Dr. Phil interview Rodney Reed

Here are key facts you should know about his case:

  1. The murder weapon has never been tested for DNA evidence. Requests for DNA testing of crime scene evidence, including a belt that was used as the murder weapon has been repeatedly denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court declined to directly review the Texas courts’ denial of DNA testing
  2. The state’s three forensic experts have admitted on the record to errors in their testimony, which led to Reed’s conviction and death sentence. The three forensic experts from Reed’s original trial have submitted affidavits that the original time of death is inaccurate, which makes the timeline for Reed killing Stites implausible.
  3. Renown forensic pathologists including Michael Baden, M.D., Werner Spitz, M.D., LeRoy Riddick, M.D., and Cyril Wecht, M.D. have all concluded that Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible. The prosecution’s only forensic evidence linking Reed to the crime was semen taken from Stites’s body, which was attributed to the consensual relationship between them. The prosecution used this to connect him to the murder and refute this consensual romantic relationship, but supporting testimony has since been recanted and completely discredits the state’s case.
  4. Rodney Reed and Stacey Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship. At the time of the trial, no one came forward to corroborate their relationship. Today, new witnesses including Stites’s own cousin and co-worker have corroborated Reed’s claim that they knew that Reed and Stites were romantically involved.
  5. For months after the murder, Jimmy Fennell was the prime suspect in the case. A recording of one of the police investigators indicates that Fennell was suspected in the murder of Stites, motivated by her relationship with another man. 
  6. Fennell’s best friend at the time of the crime, Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Curtis Davis, has now revealed that Fennell gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder. Fennell had told his friend he was out drinking on the night Stites was murdered. Contradicting this claim, he later stated he was with Stites in their apartment during what we now know was the actual time of her death, based on Dr. Michael Baden’s updated testimony. When asked to explain this discrepancy, Fennell declined to testify because his answers might further incriminate him.
  7. Two witnesses have come forward in recent weeks and submitted signed affidavits that add to the mounting evidence against Jimmy Fennell. These affidavits include testimony from an insurance salesperson who stated that Fennell threatened to kill Stites while applying for life insurance. The second witness was a Deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder, who Fennell made an alarming and incriminating statement to at Stites’s funeral regarding her body.
  8. Fennell later served a 10-year prison term for a sex crime and kidnapping. Law enforcement records also document a pattern of violence against women perpetrated by Fennell. 
  9. This case was racially charged: Reed, a black man, was found guilty of murdering Stites, a white woman by an all-white jury.
  10. Take action: You can help stop this execution by sharing this article and adding your name to this petition and checking out our Action Items

Authored by the Innocence Project: https://www.innocenceproject.org/10-facts-you-need-to-know-about-rodney-reed-who-is-scheduled-for-execution-on-november-20/

Rodney Reed will appear on Dr. Phil this week

Updated October 15, 2019

Rodney will appear in a special two-part episode of The Dr. Phil Show on October 10 and 11. Check your local listings for channel and time. Many thanks to Dr. Phil and his crew for traveling to the Death Row in Livingston, Texas, to interview Rodney!

Clips have been added to Dr. Phil’s site!
Rodney Reed’s Death Row Countdown: Is an Innocent Man About to Die? (Part 1)

What Happened to Stacey? What the Evidence Shows (Part 2)

In the UK, watch Part 1 and Part 2 at Daily Motion

Rodney Reed’s lawyers ask to withdraw execution date citing new witness testimony

October 6, 2019

Austin’s KXAN reports that Rodney’s lawyers filed a motion this Friday requesting a withdrawal of Rodney’s execution date, citing new evidence.

picture by Blaine Young for the Daily Texan

“According to The Innocence Project, two new witnesses have come forward with information they say supports the idea that Reed is innocent of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop. They say the new witnesses provide evidence connecting Stites’ former fiancé Jimmy Fennel to her murder.

The first witness is a life insurance salesperson who claimed Fennell threatened to kill Stites while she was applying for life insurance.

The salesperson said his company would frequently rent out lodge halls for events and would hire outside security. He said Fennel was often part of the hired security teams. The man said he met Stites on several occasions when Fennell would work security. The witness claims while filling out a life insurance application Stites made a joke about not needing life insurance because she was so young, to which Fennell replied, “If I ever catch you messing around on me I will kill you and no one will ever know it was me who killed you.”

The witness said he attempted to contact Reed’s lawyers in the early 2000s about his experience with Fennell, but was not able to get in contact with the right people. He claimed he did not come forward earlier because he thought Reed was going to be exonerated.

In 2015 after seeing continuing media coverage about Reed’s execution date the witness said he sent letters to both Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas AG Ken Paxton about his interaction with Fennell. He said he also wrote a similar letter to Judge Doug Shaver, who presided over Reed’s case.

The second witness is a Lee County sheriff’s deputy who said Fennell made an alarming statement at Stites’ funeral. The deputy claims during the service for Stites after her murder he was in the viewing room with Fennell. He said he distinctly remembers Fennell looking at Stites’ body in her casket and saying “you got what you deserved.”

The deputy claims in the affidavit he would frequently think about what he heard Fennell say, and said he would not be able to live with himself if he did not come forward.

The Innocence Project claims the new evidence shows a violation of Due Process under the 1963 Supreme Court Case Brady v. Maryland, since it could not have been discovered or presented in Reed’s previous pleadings.

Reed’s legal team has reached out to the Bastrop County District Court to withdraw Reed’s Nov. 20 execution date so the new evidence can fully be investigated.”


Week of Action in Austin for Rodney Reed: Rally to Face the Forensics


Rally to Face the Forensics: #StopTheExecution of Rodney Reed
Monday, September 30 – Friday, October 4, 2019, 4:00 – 7:00 PM
Texas Governor’s Mansion, 1010 Colorado St, Austin, TX
https://www.facebook.com/events/1508585969281204/

Please join us for a week of peaceful protest to STOP the execution of #RodneyReed. Rodney’s execution date is scheduled for November 20, 2019. We must continue to demand that Gov. Abbott and the State of Texas stop the execution and grant the DNA testing and day in court that Rodney deserves! With that said, we’re respectfully taking our fight back to the Governor– at his house, the Texas Governor’s Mansion!

We will meet everyday in front of the Governor’s Mansion from 4pm-7pm. On Friday, October 4th- the final day of protest for this week- we will head to the Texas State Capitol from the Governor’s Mansion around 4:45pm to hear from various speakers who are actively supporting the fight to stop Rodney’s execution, to ensure he is granted DNA testing of all the crime scene evidence including the murder weapon itself, to ensure he is granted a fair retrial where all of his witnesses including Dr. Michael Baden are called, and for him to be FREED!

All evidence implicates #JImmyFennell in the murder of #StaceyStites and that he had help from friends who were fellow members of law enforcement.

Please join us to send a loud and clear message to Texas officials including Greg Abbott at the Office of the Governor Greg Abbott, Bastrop County DA Bryan Goertz, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals :
FACE THE FORENSICS: RODNEY REED IS INNOCENT!
#STOPTHEEXECUTION
#TESTTHEDNA
#FREERODNEYREEDNOW!

We will have shirts for sale at the rally for $15. All proceeds from the shirts fund the rally itself and our journey across the country to amplify Rodney’s story from Los Angeles to Columbus, OH, to New York City to Washington DC to New Orleans and potentially two other cities,